East Africa’s leading agri-inputs supplier has partnered with the University of Nairobi to construct the Agricultural Technology and Innovation Centre (ATIC) in Kenya’s capital city.
Elgon Kenya, a floriculture specialist, says ATIC will be established at the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Services on the upper Kabete campus in Nairobi.
The ATIC promises to nurture and strengthen innovations in agriculture and entrepreneurship.
According to a media release, its aim is to foster adoption of cutting-edge innovations leading to job creation and product development resulting in a thriving agricultural sector for enhanced economic growth in Kenya.
Globally, agriculture technology incubation centres are becoming instrumental in translating scientific discoveries into products for economic development.
“The venture is born out of the need to foster a culture of innovation, promote resource mobilisation for development and commercialisation of market-demanded products and services,” says Professor Stephen Kiama, vice chancellor of the University of Nairobi.
“At the same time, it will train and mentor innovators and entrepreneurs in order to increase chances of commercial success and to accelerate uptake of technology along the agricultural value chains.”
Elgon Kenya managing director Dr Bimal Kantaria lauded the partnership, describing it as the missing link between research and industry. “To succeed in agriculture transformation, we need a focal point between research, technology and the industry.”
Kantaria adds that the centre will bring together the private sector and academia to showcase new technologies and to train students for further transmission to the agriculture community.
He emphasises that despite agriculture being the backbone of the Kenyan economy, the sector has not been backed by research, leaving farmers at the mercy of cultural and traditional practices leading to low yields affecting food security. “Agricultural re-engineering ensures use of the latest scientific technology in designing new machinery for efficiency and effectiveness in agricultural processes.”
Kantaria calls on other like-minded institutions that support agricultural transformation to support ATIC so it can grow into a centre of excellence and offer the critical nexus between learners, research and industry. “Students graduating from the university will be sharpened at the centre to instil in them street-smart skills to provide useful service to the agriculture sector,” he says.
Meanwhile, East Africa Community private secretary Dr Kevit Desai lauds the development, terming it a first in East Africa, that will be useful in enhancing the necessary research needs for the region to inform inter-regional trade in agriculture products and services.
“This is an important initiative in the context of the Big 4 Agenda considering that 70% of Africans are farmers and 50% of Kenya’s manufacturing is agriculture-based thus the establishment will incentivise farmers by enhancing their productivity and efficiency. This public-private partnership centre will advise on policy issues and legislative matters.”
He believes researched-based data is critical to policy formulation and market intelligence gathering that enable successful trading. ATIC will hold open days for stakeholders to connect with farmers where private sector players will introduce their innovations, new products and market intelligence.
In 2022, he adds, Elgon will unveil a fertiliser blending facility through which it will enable farmers to obtain small packs of the vital commodity based on results of tested soils at the facility. “This will be a game-changer in the availability and usage of fertiliser in the country,” he says.
These innovations will be showcased at AITC to reach a wider audience and fresh agriculture graduates who will be expected to spread the knowledge to develop farms.
The chairman of the committee, Professor John Kimenju, expresses his joy at the signing of a memorandum of understanding citing that the University of Nairobi and the Elgon Kenya team have been a family and have worked seamlessly.
Kimenju says the university has many agriculture innovations that are yet to be commercialised making the establishment of ATIC a timely initiative through which innovations will be commercially tested and marketed to the users. This way, the centre will be a source of revenue for the university that will sell short courses to farmers and enable the private sector to fund research using University of Nairobi staff and students.